The opening of the Berlin Wall, 25 years ago this Sunday, marked a surprisingly joyous end to a conflict that could have erupted into thermonuclear combat. In the decades since, many Americans have come to believe that the wall fell thanks to President Ronald Reagan’s direct, personal intervention. In a 1987 speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in a divided Berlin, he told Soviet leaders to “tear down this wall” — and so, we’ve been told, they did.
This misreading of the actual fall of the wall is, at best, incomplete; at worst, it’s dangerous, contributing to the belief that American leaders can go “from Berlin to Baghdad,” shaping world events while ignoring the complex realities of the locals.… Seguir leyendo »
Twenty years ago, dictatorships across Central and Eastern Europe toppled. During this season of remembering, the focus has rightly been on celebration of the new freedoms gained by the inhabitants of those countries: to speak freely, to travel, to vote and to choose their own national futures and alliances. Yet the legacy of 1989 has difficult aspects as well, mostly centering on the origins and legitimacy of later NATO expansion to former East German and Warsaw Pact territory; acknowledgment of them by the United States could greatly improve American and Russian relations.
Moscow has long asserted that the Soviet Union allowed Germany to unify only in return for a pledge from Washington never to expand the Atlantic alliance.… Seguir leyendo »
Once events make their passage from news of the day into history books, it is hard to imagine that they could have happened any other way. They’re history, after all. And 20 years later, the fall of the Berlin Wall seems like that kind of history — a world-changing event that we commemorate and celebrate, its heroes and villains well established, its images and significance clearly comprehended.
But the real story of the wall coming down is a lot less tidy than it may appear in the rear-view mirror. The “decision” to open the border was not a conscious choice at all.… Seguir leyendo »